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Ahead of Lok Sabha poll results, top US report asks world diplomats to effectively respond to 2002 riots

By Our Representative
A high-level American report, “When Justice Becomes the Victim: The Quest for Justice After the 2002 Violence in Gujarat”, released on May 1, has taken strong exception to the “decisions” by a large section of the international community to normalize relationships with BJP’s prime minister candidate Narendra Modi,  even as viewing efforts to promote increased trade between Gujarat and the rest of the world “as signs that the rest of the world has forgotten about Gujarat’s riot victims.”
Asking the international community to effectively “respond” to the 2002 riots, the report stresses, the international diplomatic community should in fact “reinforce the message that respect for human rights and respect for religious and cultural minorities remain essential cornerstones of India’s relationship with the rest of the world.”
Authored by Stephan Sonnenberg, Clinical Supervising Attorney with the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (IHRCRC), Stanford Law School, Stanford University, USA, the report underlines, “Needless to say, Modi’s political fortune and Gujarat’s economic progress” may have prompted many countries to “reevaluate their diplomatic approach towards him and his supporters.”
However, the Gujarat violence cannot and should not be reduced to the question of how to engage with one individual. The international community can engage in a variety of measures to support the creation of a more robust institutional and legal bulwark against future outbreaks of communal violence in Gujarat and across the country.”
Asking the international community to “provide support to the victims of the 2002 violence, many of whom continue to suffer significantly from the riot aftereffects, the report, running in to 128 pages, says, it should “continue to monitor the situation faced by human rights defenders, journalists, and other professionals who work on behalf of the victims of communal violence, taking action where appropriate.”
The report insists, “If and when called upon to do so, international experts and policy makers should contribute their expertise on comparative best practices from other countries on how to deal effectively with communal violence.”
It says, this is particularly important “especially given the slow pace of Gujarat’s judicial accountability processes, victims and their advocates often derived solace in these international expressions of ongoing concern over the alleged high‐level culpability and reports of ongoing impunity regarding the 2002 violence.”
Saying that “Indian legal system’s response to the 2002 violence was the most problematic in cases that alleged the complicity of Gujarat’s political establishment in the violence”, the report approvingly says, “According to many eyewitnesses and analysts, the 2002 violence was not an instance of spontaneous inter‐communal violence. Rather, many have asserted it to be the result of a carefully orchestrated plan by a group of ethno‐nationalists who sought to instigate such violence and subsequently consolidate their political hold on the state of Gujarat.”
It points out, “Some of these allegations have implicated Modi, chief minister of the State of Gujarat since October 2001, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate for the position of India’s Prime Minister in the 2014 general elections. Activists and victims have also accused several other high‐ranking government and civic leaders of playing a role in the violence.”
The report questions the special investigation team’s (SIT’s) independence after SIT sought to give benefit out doubt to Modi, saying, “the Supreme Court in May 2011 invited Raju Ramachandran, one of India’s most well‐respected and prominent lawyers, to serve as amicus curiae (lit. friend of the court), and review the evidence gathered by the SIT during its into allegations made by Zakia Jafri.”
“After conducting his review of the SIT’s investigation, Ramachandran came to precisely the opposite conclusion, arguing that the prima facie allegations against Modi and others could constitute gross criminal misconduct. More fundamentally, Ramachandran concluded that the proper forum for evaluating the evidentiary significance of Jafri’s case was a regular criminal trial, and not by the investigatory body charged with gathering relevant evidence of criminal wrongdoing”, the report underlines.

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